Grenada is a sovereign state in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea at the southern end of the Grenadines island chain. Grenada consists of the island of Grenada itself plus six smaller islands which lie to the north of the main island. It is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Its size is 348.5 square kilometres (134.6 sq mi), and it had an estimated population of 112,200 in July 2018. Its capital is St. George’s. Grenada is also known as the “Island of Spice” due to its production of nutmeg and mace crops. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada dove.
Before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, Grenada was inhabited by the indigenous Arawaks and later by the Island Caribs. Christopher Columbus sighted Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the Americas. Although it was deemed the property of the King of Spain, there are no records to suggest the Spanish ever landed or settled on the island. Following several unsuccessful attempts by Europeans to colonize the island due to resistance from the Island Caribs, French settlement and colonization began in 1650 and continued for the next century. On 10 February 1763, Grenada was ceded to the British under the Treaty of Paris. British rule continued until 1974 (except for a period of French rule between 1779 and 1783). From 1958 to 1962 Grenada was part of the Federation of the West Indies, a short-lived federation of British West Indian colonies. On 3 March 1967, Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs as an associated state.
Independence as a sovereign state was granted on 7 February 1974, without breaking formal ties with the Commonwealth, under the leadership of Eric Gairy, who became the first Prime Minister of Grenada, with Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. In March 1979, the Marxist–Leninist New Jewel Movement overthrew Gairy’s government in a popular bloodless coup d’état and established the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop as Prime Minister. Bishop was later executed by military hardliners, prompting a U.S.-led invasion in October 1983. Since then democratic governance has been restored and the island has remained politically stable.
Grenada was first populated by peoples from South America, possibly during the Caribbean Archaic Age, although definitive evidence is lacking. The earliest potential human presence comes from proxy evidence of lake cores, beginning ~3600 BC. Less ephemeral, permanent villages began around ~AD 300. The population peaked between AD 750-1250, with major changes in population afterwards, potentially the result of regional droughts and/or the “Carib Invasion“, although the latter rests on highly circumstantial evidence.
It is thought that Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage, naming it ‘Concepción’. The Spanish did not follow up on this and it was the English who were the first to attempt to colonise the island in 1609; however they were beaten off by the native Carib peoples.
French Colony (1649–1763):
In 1649 a French expedition of 203 men from Martinique led by Jacques Dyel du Parquet founded a permanent settlement on Grenada. The French signed a peace treaty with the Carib chief Kairouane, but within months conflict broke out between the two communities. This lasted until 1654 when the island was completely subjugated by the French. The indigenous peoples who survived either left for neighboring islands or retreated to remoter parts of Grenada, where they ultimately disappeared during the 1700s. Warfare continued during the 1600s between the French on Grenada and the Caribs of present-day Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The French named their new colony La Grenade, and the economy was initially based on sugar cane and indigo, worked by African slaves. The French established a capital known as Fort Royal (later St. George’s). To shelter from hurricanes the French navy would often take refuge in the capital’s natural harbor, as no nearby French islands had a natural harbor to compare with that of Fort Royal. The British captured Grenada during the Seven Years’ War in 1762.
British Colonial Period:
Grenada was formally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The French re-captured the island during the American Revolutionary War, after Comte d’Estaing won the bloody land and naval Battle of Grenada in July 1779. However the island was restored to Britain with the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. A decade later dissatisfaction with British rule led to a pro-French revolt in 1795–96 led by Julien Fédon, which was successfully defeated by the British.
As Grenada’s economy grew, more and more African slaves were forcibly transported to the island. Britain eventually outlawed the slave trade within the British Empire in 1807, and slavery was outlawed completely in 1834. In an effort to ameliorate the subsequent labor shortage, migrants from India were brought to Grenada in 1857.
Nutmeg was introduced to Grenada in 1843 when a merchant ship called in on its way to England from the East Indies. The ship had a small quantity of nutmeg trees on board which they left in Grenada, and this was the beginning of Grenada’s nutmeg industry that now supplies nearly 40% of the world’s annual crop.
In 1877 Grenada was made a Crown colony. Theophilus A. Marryshow founded the Representative Government Association (RGA) in 1917 to agitate for a new and participative constitutional dispensation for the Grenadian people. Partly as a result of Marryshow’s lobbying, the Wood Commission of 1921–22 concluded that Grenada was ready for constitutional reform in the form of a modified Crown colony government. This modification granted Grenadians the right to elect five of the 15 members of the Legislative Council, on a restricted property franchise enabling the wealthiest 4% of adult Grenadians to vote. Marryshow was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1943.
In 1950 Eric Gairy founded the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP), initially as a trade union, which led the 1951 general strike for better working conditions. This sparked great unrest—so many buildings were set ablaze that the disturbances became known as the “red sky” days—and the British authorities decided to call in military reinforcements to help regain control of the situation. On 10 October 1951, Grenada held its first general elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage, with Gairy’s party winning six of the eight seats contested.
From 1958 to 1962 Grenada was part of the Federation of the West Indies. After the federation’s collapse Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs as an Associated State on 3 March 1967. Herbert Blaize of the Grenada National Party (GNP) was the first Premier of the Associated State of Grenada from March to August 1967. Eric Gairy served as Premier from August 1967 until February 1974.
Independence was granted on 7 February 1974, under the leadership of Eric Gairy, who became the first Prime Minister of Grenada. Grenada opted to remain within the British Commonwealth, retaining Queen Elizabeth as Monarch, represented locally by a Governor-General. Civil conflict gradually broke out between Eric Gairy’s government and some opposition parties, including the Marxist New Jewel Movement (NJM). Gairy and the GULP won the 1976 Grenadian general election, albeit with an reduced majority; however the opposition deemed the results invalid due to fraud and the violent intimidation performed by the so-called ‘Mongoose Gang’, a private militia loyal to Gairy.
On 13 March 1979, whilst Gairy was out of the country, the NJM launched a bloodless coup which removed Gairy, suspended the constitution, and established a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop who declared himself Prime Minister. His Marxist–Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, Nicaragua, and other communist bloc countries. All political parties except for the New Jewel Movement were banned and no elections were held during the four years of PRG rule.
Invasion by the United States (1983):
Some years later a dispute developed between Bishop and certain high-ranking members of the NJM. Though Bishop cooperated with Cuba and the USSR on various trade and foreign policy issues, he sought to maintain a “non-aligned” status. Bishop had been taking his time making Grenada wholly socialist, simultaneously encouraging private-sector development in an attempt to make the island a popular tourist destination. Hardline Marxist party members, including communist Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, deemed Bishop insufficiently revolutionary and demanded that he either step down or enter into a power-sharing arrangement.
On 16 October 1983 Bernard Coard and his wife, Phyllis, backed by the Grenadian Army, led a coup against the government of Maurice Bishop and placed Bishop under house arrest. These actions led to street demonstrations in various parts of the island because Bishop had widespread support from the population. Because Bishop was a widely popular leader, he was freed by impassioned supporters who marched en masse on his guarded residence from a rally in the capital’s central square. Bishop then led the crowd to the island’s military headquarters to reassert his power. Grenadian soldiers were dispatched in armored vehicles by the Coard faction to retake the fort. A confrontation between soldiers and civilians at the fort ended in gunfire and panic. Three soldiers and at least eight civilians died in the tumult that also injured 100 others, a school-sponsored study later found. When the initial shooting ended with Bishop’s surrender, he and seven of his closest supporters were taken prisoner and executed by a firing squad of soldiers. Besides Bishop, the group included three of his cabinet ministers, a trade union leader and three service-industry workers.
After the execution of Bishop, the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) formed a Military-Marxist government with General Hudson Austin as chairman. The army declared a four-day total curfew, during which anyone leaving their home without approval would be shot on sight.
The overthrow of a moderately socialist government by one which was strongly pro-communist concerned the administration of US President Ronald Reagan. Reagan also claimed that particularly worrying was the presence of Cuban construction workers and military personnel building a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) airstrip on Grenada. Bishop had stated the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land, but some US military analysts argued that the only reason for constructing such a long and reinforced runway was so that it could be used by heavy military transport planes. The contractors, American and European companies, and the EEC, which provided partial funding, all claimed the airstrip did not have military capabilities. Reagan claimed that Cuba, under the direction of the Soviet Union, would use Grenada as a refuelling stop for Cuban and Soviet airplanes loaded with weapons destined for Central American communist insurgents.
On 25 October 1983, combined forces from the United States and from the Regional Security System (RSS) based in Barbados invaded Grenada in an operation code-named Operation Urgent Fury. The US stated this was done at the behest of the governments of Barbados and Dominica and the Governor-General of Grenada, Sir Paul Scoon. Progress was rapid and within four days the Americans had removed the military government of Hudson Austin.
The invasion was heavily criticized by the governments of Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada. The United Nations General Assembly condemned it as “a flagrant violation of international law” by a vote of 108 in favor to 9, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution, which was supported by 11 nations. However, the United States vetoed the motion.
After the invasion, the pre-revolutionary Grenadian constitution came into operation once again. Eighteen members of the PRG/PRA were arrested on charges related to the murder of Maurice Bishop and seven others. The 18 included the top political leadership of Grenada at the time of the execution, along with the entire military chain of command directly responsible for the operation that led to the executions. Fourteen were sentenced to death, one was found not guilty, and three were sentenced to 45 years in prison. The death sentences were eventually commuted to terms of imprisonment. Those in prison have become known as ‘the Grenada 17’.
Grenada Since 1983:
When US troops withdrew from Grenada in December 1983, Nicholas Brathwaite of the National Democratic Congress was appointed Prime Minister of an interim administration by Governor-General Scoon until elections could be organised. The first democratic elections since 1976 were held in December 1984, and were won by the Grenada National Party under Herbert Blaize, who served as Prime Minister until his death in December 1989.
Ben Jones briefly succeeded Blaize as Prime Minister and served until the March 1990 election, which was won by the National Democratic Congress under Nicholas Brathwaite who returned as Prime Minister for a second time until he resigned in February 1995. He was succeeded by George Brizan who served for a brief period until the June 1995 election which was won by the New National Party under Keith Mitchell, who went on to win the 1999 and 2003 elections, serving for a record 13 years until 2008. Mitchell re-established relations with Cuba and also reformed the country’s banking system, which had come in for criticism over potential money laundering concerns.
In 2000–02, much of the controversy of the late 1970s and early 1980s was once again brought into the public consciousness with the opening of the truth and reconciliation commission. The commission was chaired by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Mark Haynes, and was tasked with uncovering injustices arising from the PRA, Bishop’s regime, and before. It held a number of hearings around the country. Brother Robert Fanovich, head of Presentation Brothers’ College (PBC) in St. George’s tasked some of his senior students with conducting a research project into the era and specifically into the fact that Maurice Bishop’s body was never discovered. Paterson also uncovered that there was still a lot of resentment in Grenadian society resulting from the era and a feeling that there were many injustices still unaddressed.
On 7 September 2004, after being hurricane-free for 49 years, the island was directly hit by Hurricane Ivan.
Ivan struck as a Category 3 hurricane, resulting in 39 deaths and damage or destruction to 90% of the island’s homes. On 14 July 2005, Hurricane Emily, a Category 1 hurricane at the time, struck the northern part of the island with 80-knot (150 km/h; 92 mph) winds, killing one person and causing an estimated USD $110 million (EC$297 million) worth of damage. Agriculture, and in particular the nutmeg industry, suffered serious losses, but that event has begun changes in crop management and it is hoped that as new nutmeg trees gradually mature, the industry will gradually rebuild.
Mitchell was defeated in the 2008 election by the NDC under Tillman Thomas, however he won the 2013 Grenadian general election by a landslide and the NNP returned to power, winning again by another landslide in 2018. In March 2020, Grenada confirmed its first case of Covid-19, of which the economic effects are expected to rival past downturns, including Hurricane Ivan.
The island of Grenada is the southernmost island in the Antilles archipelago, bordering the eastern Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean, and roughly 140 km (90 mi) north of both Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Its sister islands make up the southern section of the Grenadines, which include Carriacou, Petite Martinique, Ronde Island, Caille Island, Diamond Island, Large Island, Saline Island, and Frigate Island; the remaining islands to the north belong to St Vincent and the Grenadines. Most of the population lives on Grenada, and major towns there include the capital, St. George’s, Grenville and Gouyave. The largest settlement on the sister islands is Hillsborough on Carriacou.
Grenada is of volcanic origin, as evident in its soil, mountainous interior, and several explosion craters, including Lake Antoine, Grand Etang Lake and Levera Pond. Grenada’s highest point is Mount St. Catherine, rising to 840 m (2,760 ft) above sea level. Other major mountains include Mount Granby and South East Mountain. Several small rivers with waterfalls flow into the sea from these mountains. The coastline contains several bays, most notably on the southern coast which is split into numerous thin peninsulas.
Grenada has a small economy in which tourism is the major foreign exchange earner. Major short-term concerns are the rising fiscal deficit and the deterioration in the external account balance. Grenada shares a common central bank and a common currency (the East Caribbean dollar) with seven other members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Grenada has suffered from a heavy external debt problem, with government debt service payments running at about 25% of total revenues in 2017; Grenada was listed as ninth from bottom in a study of 126 developing countries.
Grenada is an exporter of several different spices, most notably nutmeg, its top export and depicted on the national flag, and mace. Other major exports include bananas, cocoa, fruit and vegetables, clothing, chocolate and fish.
Tourism is the mainstay of Grenada’s economy. Conventional beach and water-sports tourism is largely focused in the southwest region around St George, the airport and the coastal strip. Ecotourism is growing in significance. Most small ecofriendly guesthouses are located in the Saint David and Saint John parishes. The tourism industry is increasing dramatically with the construction of a large cruise ship pier and esplanade.
Tourism is concentrated in the southwest of the island, around St. George’s, Grand Anse, Lance Aux Epines, and Point Salines. Grenada has many beaches around its coastline, including the 3 km (1.9 mi) long Grand Anse Beach in St George, often hailed as one of the best beaches in the world. Grenada’s many waterfalls are also popular with tourists. The nearest to St. George’s is the Annandale Waterfalls, but other notable ones like Mt. Carmel, Concord, Seven Sisters and Tufton Hall also being within easy reach.
Maurice Bishop International Airport is Grenada’s main airport, connecting the country with other Caribbean islands, the United States, Canada, and Europe.
There is also an airport on Carriacou.
A network of paved roads covers the populated areas of the island with bus and taxi services commonly used.
Flag of Grenada:
The six stars in the red border represent the country’s six parishes, with the middle star, encircled by a red disk, representing Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The symbol in the hoist represents a clove of nutmeg, one of the principal crops of Grenada. It also represents a link to Grenada’s former name, which was the “Isle of Spice”. The red colour of the flag stands for courage and vitality, gold for wisdom and warmth, and green for vegetation and agriculture.
Three previous flags flew over Grenada prior to independence.